Fairfax’s Mark Mitchell is one of nation’s top historians, collectors of African Americana

June 18, 2013

Mark E. Mitchell of Fairfax holds a letter from Frederick Douglass about Sojouner Truth. Mitchell has built one of the largest collections of African American documents, photos and artifacts in the world, and helped push Congress to create a national African American history museum on the Mall. (D.A. Peterson)

He’s a white, 67-year-old jazz saxophone player from Takoma Park. And now, from his townhouse in Fairfax County, Mark E. Mitchell has amassed a collection of African American memorabilia which places him at the forefront of experts in African American history, and which became a driving force in the creation of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The Post’s Lonnae O’Neal Parker crafted a superb profile of Mitchell which appeared in Sunday’s Post Magazine, and you should read it now. Among other things we learn, as we see and read about items such as a handwritten poem by 18th-century slave Phillis Wheatley, is that a number of Redskin players used to visit Mitchell to learn about their history, and that he pushed then-Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.) to join Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) to pass the legislation creating the African American museum on the Mall. Groundbreaking took place last year and the opening is scheduled for 2015.

After you’ve read Parker’s piece, check out Mitchell’s website. It has page after page of examples from his collection of over 4,000 documents, photos and artifacts dating back to the 1600s. It is mesmerizing, and it is fascinating that a Fairfax County man has gradually become a national figure in preserving and spreading an important part of our country’s history.


Mark E. Mitchell stands with some of the 4,000 artifacts he has collected on African American history. (D.A. Peterson)
Tom Jackman is a native of Northern Virginia and has been covering the region for The Post since 1998. In 2011 he launched The State of NoVa blog, a state strictly defined as the boundaries of four counties and one city: Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William and Alexandria.
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Clinton Yates | June 17, 2013